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Celebrating Beth Collea’s Service as NEYM Staff: An Update on Discernment and Next Steps
As many have now heard, Beth Collea, our beloved Religious Education and Outreach Coordinator, will lay down her work as NEYM staff in September after more than 14 years. Please join me in expressing deep gratitude for her many years of faithful service in support of the spiritual lives of children, families, meeting communities, and at the growing edges of our faith.
Beth’s contributions and involvement have been significant in both depth and scope. For those less familiar with her work, her service has involved supporting First Day School and all-ages religious education in local meetings, and networks of religious educators in New England, across North America, and beyond. She has worked alongside many Friends as they’ve explored growing edges in the life and ministry of their meeting communities. She has launched pilot projects in outreach, created materials, and gathered communities of practice. She has helped Friends explore more dynamic outreach; identified and encouraged nascent gifts, ministries and collaborations; and supported spiritual formation programs. Most recently, she has brought a keen listening ear and heart to considering the qualities and conditions for thriving meetings, sharing what she is learning about renewal in our congregational life.
In recent years, the Yearly Meeting has supported Beth’s key role in creating the diverse collaboration that birthed, distributed, and trained hundreds of Friends to use Jugar llenos de fe, the Spanish-language translation of the Faith & Play curriculum. She co-founded the Quaker Religious Education Collaborative (quakers4re.org), "a grassroots network of Friends holding a sense of stewardship for life-long Quaker faith formation through religious education.” She midwifed a circle of support for the first offering of the Nurturing Worship, Faith and Faithfulness (“NWFF”, now Nurturing Faithfulness) program, a spiritual formation partnership between Marcelle Martin, Woolman Hill, and NEYM. She helped bring the richness of the Quaker Parenting Initiative more fully to New England Friends. Recognizing the scarcity of racial justice resources for children’s religious education, she has worked with Friends across the country and beyond to support this vital conversation and work. And these are just a few examples.
Beth has carried and will continue to carry a vibrant ministry, and as she–and we as a yearly meeting–transition into the new shape her public ministry will take, there are understandably many questions about what comes next. Many Friends may be wondering what will happen with the position she leaves vacant. We know some of the next steps, and others will only come with time as we ask, “How can the Yearly Meeting continue to support the work that has been carried by Beth and by the shape of this staff position for so many years–and what's needed now?”
Listening for these answers has already begun and will continue in the coming year. One essential aspect of this relates to the continued growth of the Youth Ministries of NEYM. In February, before Beth’s discernment about her transition was clear, the Youth Ministries Committee convened a consultation on how NEYM can sustain and strengthen the best of our beloved youth retreat programs, and how we can more fully engage and respond to the needs of youth and families in local meetings and regionally in a wider web of care. We are already planning steps to move toward this deepened integration, and I trust that we–Quaker youth and families, the Youth Ministries Staff and Committee and many other stakeholders–will learn much more in the coming months.
There is also important work happening in adult religious education, including following up on the recently-concluded NWFF program, and preparing for a second offering in fall 2019. New growth is happening in religious education in local meetings, including fostering intergenerational spiritual friendships, developing new curricula and resources, and in several other exciting places. This will continue to develop in partnership with NEYM Ministry & Counsel and many others involved in this growing dimension of the Yearly Meeting’s work.
And there is further work continuing to learn about outreach, inclusion, multigenerational relationship, and renewal in local meetings, for which one day per week of Beth’s position has been funded, as part of a multi-year grant from the Shoemaker Fund. I am working with Hilary Burgin, our Young Adult Engagement Coordinator (whose position is wholly funded through this grant), to discern what is most needed to support the meetings with which we are partnering in this final year of the grant, so that the lessons and fruits of this partnership can be of greatest benefit to Friends in New England, our partners in New York Yearly Meeting, and the wider Quaker movement.
In consultation and prayer, and seeking to balance the many different needs, dreams and concerns Friends hold for the life and ministry of Friends in New England at this time, I became clear to recommend that we not immediately rehire for this position in fiscal year 2019, exercising fiscal restraint and helping Finance Committee to bring forward a balanced budget to Annual Sessions. At the same time, we have reserved more than half of the funding for this position in order to flexibly respond to the current and emerging needs related to the many dimensions of ministry in which Beth’s service has been so vital.
As we look ahead to the budget beginning October 2019 (the following fiscal year) and beyond, the discernment about staffing needs will be integrated with the Permanent Board’s new funding priority process for the work of the Yearly Meeting as a whole. Consistent with that discernment, we will consider how our forms (including staffing levels and positions) can best support that work, and what Friends are led to financially support. We will seek guidance from Permanent Board and proceed in consultation with Youth Ministries, Ministry & Counsel, and Personnel Committees; and others. As we move forward, your voice, vision, questions and support are welcome and needed. Please share your input and ideas directly with me, with the clerk of Youth Ministries Committee, the clerk of Ministry and Counsel, or the clerk of Personnel in the coming months.
In faith and service,
Noah Merrill, Secretary
New England Yearly Meeting of Friends